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March 5, 2013

Lions look to end road skid in Evanston

For Patrick Chambers and the Penn State men's basketball team, there is no going back to the drawing board at this point in the season.

Following the program's first win against a No. 4-ranked team since 2001, and more important, the team's first win against Big Ten competition this season and first since Dec. 29, the Nittany Lions were stifled at Minnesota over the weekend, 73-44.

Failing to score any points for the first 11 minutes of the game, the Nittany Lions shot just 27.1 percent from the floor for the game, a paltry 5 of 23 in the first half, and found themselves out rebounded by the Golden Gophers, 46-30 while distributing just nine assists for the game.

"It's one game. Gotta move on," Chambers told the media at his weekly press conference on Tuesday afternoon at the Bryce Jordan Center. "We gotta continue to get better. We haven't been beaten like that all year. It happens.

"I told them, it was the perfect storm. The highest of highs, top of the mountain, to senior night, and we couldn't make a shot. It's been a long time since we couldn't make a shot on the road. I just said, it's one game. Let's put it behind us. Let's move on, try to learn from it, try to get better and make sure it doesn't happen again. That's been our approach the last two days.

It's been the Nittany Lions' approach throughout the 2012-13 season, regardless of a 14-game losing streak or one of the program's best wins in a decade.

According to Chambers, the fight and energy levels that existed at the beginning of the season continue today.

"I give these kids credit. I don't know what's going to happen on Thursday, but I give these kids credit for their willingness, and their energy and enthusiasm on Monday and Tuesday," he said. "I think it's the foundation that we've built here and are creating - a great attitude. The environment that we've created here, of positivity. These guys want to get better as individuals and they don't like losing. I always tell them, we've gotta pick up the pieces and get back to work the next day. That's what it is.

"We're not happy with where we are, we're not happy with our record, but it is where we are right now and we're coming in with a great approach. That's all you can do. You can control that. I can control my attitude and effort. So, every day I approach it like October 16th. The first day of practice. I say that to them, 'Do you remember the first day of practice? That was a long time ago. How happy and pumped up you were, running all around, fired up?' March 5th. Act like it's the first day. I might say it a little differently, but I think our leadership of D.J., Jermaine, Nick and Tim and Sasa, being a senior, they want to go out on a high note."

To get that high note, the Nittany Lions will take on a Northwestern team facing its own unique set of challenges on Thursday night in Evanston.

Suffering the losses of their leading scorer, Drew Crawford, earlier in the season and now Jared Swopshire, the Wildcats' leading rebounder and fourth leading scorer, both to injury, they've paid dearly. Dating back to a Feb. 2 win against Purdue, the Wildcats have lost six straight games, including a 74-43 loss to Purdue just a week ago.

Still, with Bill Carmody's Wildcats set for a senior night of their own - the same that Chambers acknowledged help propel his NIttany Lions to the win against Michigan, and hurt them at Minnesota - there are still plenty of challenges coming Thursday (7 p.m.; ESPNU).

"All I'm going to say to them is, 'It's senior night.' That's all I have to say. It's another senior night," Chambers said. "You saw how Minnesota played. They played out of their minds. Senior night. You saw how we played. Senior night. Making shots at the end, that's what happens. Senior night.

"They're going to play with great energy, great enthusiasm, and they haven't won in six tries. It doesn't matter for them who's on the floor. They run great offense. Everyone is skilled, everyone can hit a three and when you have that capability, you're scary. They're mixing up their defenses now. Playing a little man, a little zone, a little two-three. It's going to be a brutal game. Tough game."

Meanwhile, the NIttany Lions have their own set of challenges to overcome, even beyond the debilitating injury to Tim Frazier that opened the season. The Nittany Lions are hoping to snap a 19-game road losing streak, including 17-straight losses on the road against Big Ten competition.


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